The new 'Spearhead' series is designed to look at the cutting edge of war, dealing with units capable of operating completely independently in the forefront of battle. Each volume in the series examines the chosen unit's origins and history, its organisation and order of battle, its battle history theatre by theatre, its insignia and its markings. Also covered are biographies of the most important commanders of each unit. Each title ends with an assessment of unit effectiveness - as seen by the unit itself, by its opponents and the light of more recent historical research. The books also include a detailed reference section with a critical bibliography, a listing of relevant museums and web sites, information about reenactment groups and memorials. Authors of a number of titles in the Spearhead series (2 Grossdeutschland, 5 Leibstandarte and 9 Das Reich) Mike Sharpe and Brian Davies now take on the foremost German mountain unit that saw action in Greece, Crete, Russia and Italy. The elite division was formed in autumn 1940 and was commanded by the charismatic Julius 'Papa' Ringel until 1944. It was based in Salzburg, Austria, although the personnel were predominantly from Bavaria. Formed from the 100th Gebirgs Regiment, the first few months of its life were spent training in the Bavarian Alps before it moved to the Balkans theatre, where it played a prominent role in the smashing of the Metaxas defence lines and the defeat of the Greek and Commonwealth defending forces. It was chosen as the air-landing component of XI Airborne Corps for Operation Merkur - the attack on Crete - where it fought alongside the German paratroops covered in Spearhead 4. It remained on the island as an occupation force until it was sent to the Leningrad front in October 1941. During that time the division was used essentially as a 'fire brigade' for the 18th Armee, serving at various times on the Volchov front, near Mga, near Schlusselburg, and on the Neva near Kolopino. In December 1943 the division was transferred to Italy under the control of 10th Armee. It distinguished itself many times fighting up the 'leg' of the Italian mainland during the battles for the Gustav and Gothic defence lines. This was the last Mountain division to fight in high alpine terrain. On April 20, 1945, seven Gebirgsjager made a night climb up the Northeast wall of Roc Belleface. Their raid succeeded in dislodging the French garrison's defences. After some additional combat actions, the division assembled for the last time and marched in full order eastwards toward Milan. After fighting with Italian Partisans during their journey, they went into American captivity just north of Turin. For all those interested in military history, the new 'Spearhead' series is an excellent account of each of the individual units. Written by acknowledged experts in the subject, each volume is a detailed account of the development and operational record of some of the most famous military units in history.
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